Traveling the world as an American, size seems to come up a lot. I was told this weekend by a young Chilean friend that “the United States is a very big country.” I agreed and pointed out that if you took Chile and expanded it east/west until it was a square, it would still be a little smaller, though not by much, than the United States.
Personal size also comes up. We Americans are, on average, bigger than a lot of folks in the world. Not everyone and two students have Dutch housemates who tower over them, but most. We are most especially bigger (in all dimensions) than Argentines or Chileans. I get stared at a lot. Some is just that I’m clearly foreign and who doesn’t stare at foreigners? But a lot is size. I’m fairly used to having women alone avoid me, crossing streets, not getting on the elevator, etc. I don’t blame them, it’s probably a good call on the percentages. It took a lot of stalking to get past that point with Mary. But this morning I actually had TWO GUYS TOGETHER obviously cross the street to get away from me. Dudes, I haven’t been in a fight in over 30 years and I’m pretty sure I lost that one.
The point is, we’re foreign and a few of us are notably large. And Chileans are not shy about being surprised by this.
The other place I’ve noticed size is in food portions and drink sizes. The smaller food portions are, on the whole, a good thing. I generally eat whatever is put in front of me. So, if you put less in front of me, I eat less. That’s a good thing (I keep telling myself). But drink sizes. In both Argentina and Chile, we get these tiny cups of coffee. The coffee is outstanding, really, truly great. But it’s tiny. I’ve been preaching to the students that a lot of this experience is to learn to roll with things. Get used to small, excellent coffees. Get used to a small cup of water. Get used to no all-you-can-eat buffets. There are plenty of cool things to make up for those bits of the United States that we are missing.
But, today, I arrived home parched. It is dry in Santiago and I was slammed all afternoon and am missing my office fridge. I honestly have no idea where to get a drink of water near my office now that I think about it. I wanted a huge glass of cold liquid. Not small and cool. Large and cold. I have a plastic glass at home that I got at a Wake basketball game or something. In the 19th century it would have supplied a family’s daily water. Here, I have a perfectly adequate glass. After all, I can refill it to my heart’s desire. But I was thirsty and wanted a giant honking serving of something very, very cold.
I haven’t even been able to find such cups here. I’m sure they’re somewhere. I made the mistake of visiting Costanera Center – an enormous, loud, very modern mall, 6 floors including a cineplex and an appalling food court – on Sunday afternoon. I bet they have them there but I’d have to stand in line. I needed a wireless computer mouse, believing I had lost mine (I hadn’t) and went to a store called something like “PC Palace”. I took a number, as one does. I was #64. #48 was currently being served. I waited 15 minutes and 48 didn’t change. I did the math and headed out. I finally found one in a school supply store and then found my mouse upon arriving at my office this morning.
I bet I could find a giant plastic cup at Costanera Center. But I’m not going back to look.
What I did was realize that I have two big plastic water bottles with a UV sterilizer in the cap for purifying water while backpacking. But, removing the cap gives you…a giant plastic cup.